June 9, 2008

Archaeologists Discover Ancient Roman-era Tombs

The recent discovery of a 2,000-year-old necropolis on the outskirts of Rome is giving researchers a glimpse of the lifestyles of poor workers during the Roman era.

Dating back to the 1st and 2nd century A.D., the burial complex once held about 320 tombs, which now contain well-preserved skeletal remains and artifacts.

The find has been noted by archaeologists as very important to revealing the lives of workers and slaves who probably worked at a nearby port.

"The predominant aspect here is not the recovery of artifacts but the possibility of learning about the daily life of a small sample of citizens from the lowest levels of society during the Roman empire," said Angelo Bottini, Rome's archaeology chief.

"It gives a very concrete look into how these people lived and their religious beliefs," Bottini said.

Most of the skeletal remains were from males. They showed the physical effects of hard labor in hot humid conditions, which reinforced the idea that they were working at the port facilities.

Some tombs also held remains of children who wore or grasped necklaces in their hand, presumably to ward off evil spirits.

Bronze rings, gold earrings and a striking necklace made of tiny figurines and pieces of amber were among other ornaments discovered in children's tombs, archaeologists said.

The team also found the remains of a full-grown man with a rare congenital disorder that would have made it impossible to open his mouth "“ meaning he would have been unable to feed himself without the help of others.

"Ancient peoples did not have a positive attitude towards anomalies, and tended to view them very negatively," said Bottini.

"But here we have a situation that's totally contrary to such behavior -- of a person who is severely disabled but has been helped by others to allow him to survive."

Image: Stock Photo / Vesta Temple